Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Skewed Perceptions

I was in Toronto over the weekend. While walking through a shopping centre there with my family, I spotted a young man with the following question on the front of his T-shirt: Got Rights? I took that to mean that he didn't think he had any. Not surprisingly, to me at least, the back of his shirt sported the CAIR logo. In case you aren't familiar with the acronym, it stands for Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The scene struck me as more than a bit ironic. While it is true that there have been instances of discrimination and even abuse of Muslims in North America, on average even the Muslims themselves must admit that it is better here than it was there, in whichever country they came from. No? Then why are they here? They, or their parents, left their homes for the same reasons we, or our ancestors left Europe or wherever we might have originated. Fear of persecution and imminent danger are great reasons to leave one country for another. Even lack of opportunity and the wish of a better life for their children would be good reasons to leave places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and several other predominantly Muslim countries.

The Muslims have found here what they were looking for, just as we and our ancestors did when we came here. They have relative peace, more 'rights' than they were likely to enjoy where they came from and certainly more economic opportunity. No-one begrudges Muslim immigrants their wish to come here to live. Why would we? Canadians and Americans welcomed us when we wanted a safe place to escape to, why would we not extend that same welcome to others?

'Got rights?'

Which rights, exactly, do these Muslims think they don't have? They certainly haven't lost the right to whine. I have written before about what things were sometimes like for German immigrants in Canada after World War II. Or consider the treatment of the Canadian and American Japanese during World War II. They had real reason for complaint. I have never heard a whimper from any Japanese immigrant. Have you?

Earlier immigrants sucked it up, understood that there were dynamics at play that would take time to settle. We understood that individual humans in our adoptive homeland were mostly just like us and that over time hostile feelings would subside. We would eventually 'fit in' and be accepted into the milieu. That's exactly what happened. And it didn't take long.

Except for isolated incidences, Muslims are not deprived of their rights. They go where they wish, say what they wish, interact with whomever they wish. I know of no-one personally who dislikes any individual Muslim simply because of his or her religion. In fact, I don't know of anyone, personally, who dislikes Muslims as a group. Like us, they are human beings, most of whom simply want to live a peaceful life and to be able to raise their children in relative peace, without fear of persecution.

That's what I want too. Let's all be friends. I'll even overlook the fact that it is I, and many others like me, who are the subject of discriminatory treatment because of the behaviour of the Muslim terrorists who started this entire mess on September 11, 2001. How so? How can I make such a statement? I'll tell you.

When I travel to the United States, I am much more heavily scrutinized than I was prior to September of 2001. Although all of the nineteen terrorists who caused the 9-11 mayhem were Muslims -- dark-complexioned, dark-eyed and dark-haired, individuals who match that general description are not singled out for scrutiny. No, middle-aged, blond, blue-eyed men are targeted more often. So are tall, blonde women. So are grandmothers in wheelchairs. And so on and so on. Why? There are more of us. In order not to appear discriminatory against Arabs and Muslims, the American government instead discriminates against everyone else.

I was flying out of Dallas-Fort Worth a little over a year ago and noticed a young man of Arabic appearance wandering around inside the boarding area to get onto my Air Canada flight. Although it was very warm outside, over 80 Fahrenheit, he had on a bulky winter coat and a toque. He appeared to be nervous about something. Could he be hiding something under his bulky apparel? Airport officials in the area were busy searching an elderly Indian or Pakistani woman in a wheelchair. They were inspecting her shoes, presumably to see whether explosives might be hidden inside. Her frightened and visibly agitated husband stood helplessly nearby. No-one paid any attention to the young man with the bulky coat. I kept my distance and hoped for the best.

What has the world come to? I have no ill will towards any Arab, any Muslim, or anyone else. Everyone is welcome anywhere I am, anywhere I shop, work or live. Their children can play with my child. They can buy from me and I from them. No problem.

All I ask is that everyone lighten up. Take whatever attention they attract at the moment, just as we did. Suck it up. Be responsible. We were. When Muslims no longer blow up airplanes and buildings and themselves in order to kill the reviled infidel, no-one will give them a second glance.

Or is that not what they want?


  1. I agree about the relatively quiet japanese.

    And, I am going to make a Tee that says: "Got MILF?"


  2. That would be a T-shirt that I wouldn't complain about.